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Measure 2: Get informed; Town hall meeting provides neutral setting for property tax bill discussion

Andy Peterson, North Dakota Chamber of Commerce president, speaks again Friday at the Elks Lodge in Dickinson about Measure 2. The measure, which would eliminate property taxes if passed, is on the June primary ballot.

Opponents and supporters for a measure that would eliminate property taxes in North Dakota butted heads Friday at the Elks Lodge in Dickinson, and residents had a lot of questions on how it would affect the future.

"Where are we, the county commissioners, going to get the money to do our jobs?" Hettinger County Commissioner John Plaggemeyer said. "Where are the cities going to get their money to do their jobs?"

Dickinson was one of six town hall meetings held across the state sponsored by the North Dakota Taxpayers Association. The forums are meant to discuss Measure 2 in a neutral setting, according to a press release from the association.

Charlene Nelson, who spoke for Measure 2, said that the property tax is very complex and it is "unfixable."

"In the past 28 years, the legislation has amended the property tax 135 times," she said. "If you take your car in to get it fixed 134 times, by the 135th time you got to figure you got a lemon. You got to take it out and shoot it and go buy a new car."

Opponents of the measure said they were concerned how the measure would work, adding it is not the way to get rid of property taxes.

"The proponents say, 'Listen. It is the state government. It is the legislators that increase spending,' and yet they are going to turn it over to them and ask them to fix this problem," said Andy Peterson, North Dakota Chamber of Commerce president and opponent of the measure. "It's like turning the institution to the inmates and asking for order. It's not going to happen."

Plaggemeyer said while he hoped he could trust state legislators to do their job, he was afraid more populated areas would have more power to decide where funds would go.

"They don't have a clue we need a gravel pit without us going there and lobbying for it," he said. "This thing to me is very scary."

Despite the heavy debate, cheering and shouting, all parties involved in the debate wanted to send out one message: Get informed and discuss the facts instead of rumors, said Measure 2 supporter Leon Mallberg.

"What I am hearing is so much garbage that has no substantiation at all," he said. "That's what we are looking for is to talk about facts instead of all this emotion. Good decisions are not made by emotions."

NDTA Executive Director Dustin Gawrylow said he wished more people had showed up, and legislators and citizens need to take the issue more seriously.

"We got a lot a work to do on the education side of it let alone advocating one or the other," he said.